SMEs get assurance on new law

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2007, 12:00am

The government aims to remove a key obstacle to introducing a competition law by assuring small and medium-sized businesses that they will not be penalised.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Frederick Ma Si-hang yesterday confirmed that a second round of public consultation would be launched early next year because many SMEs were worried the new law might mean high compliance costs and adversely affect their business.

'We want them to be absolutely clear in their mind that this law is not going to penalise them,' Mr Ma said at the Asian Competition Forum.

The minister later added that the exercise would last several months and be carried out in the form of a 'very detailed document' in plain language.

Mr Ma said a white bill was not chosen because legal terms might not be easy for the public to understand.

The vice-president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, Paul Yin Tek-shing, said many SMEs feared the proposed competition law would bring legal action they could not afford.

He suggested the government introduce industry-specific measures to combat the abuse of market power seen in certain sectors, instead of imposing a law on all businesses.

Mr Yin said he believed the government would be willing to make adjustments after receiving opinions in the second consultation.

Mr Ma acknowledged there were still concerns that 'the devil is in the details', although responses to last year's three-month public consultation had been generally positive.

He pledged to strike a balance between taking effective action against abusive behaviour by the market dominators while ensuring fundamental legal rights were not compromised.

'We will take great care to ensure that the rights of parties under investigation are properly protected, and that full appeal channels will be provided for,' the minister said.